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EDITOR : This is a short history of Illawambra, the former family property of Colin and Finlay Munro. Colin tells me that David Samuel Peden, the first of their family to own Illawambra, arrived in Sydney from Scotland in 1832 and opened a bookshop in Hunter Street. Sir John Peden’s wife was the Gt Granddaughter of Ellen Amos who arrived on the East coast of Tasmania from Scotland in 1824. The Amos family still holds its original farming country at Swansea, Tasmania.
Illawambra was one of the original farms in the Cobargo area on the South coast on New South Wales and was first settled around middle last century by a gentleman named Whitehead. About 1900 it was acquired by Colin & Jock’s Gt Gt Grandfather, Magnus Jackson Peden, an original member of the Sydney Stock Exchange who and acquired large parcels of land in the Bega area. Peden Street in Bega is named after him. The main farm house on Illawambra dates to about 1860 and is constructed of vertical slabs hand hewn from hardwood grown on the property. The oldest of the farm outbuildings, a two-story feed shed, was constructed in a similar manner and it also has a hewn slab upper floor.
The original dairy of pole construction with a flagstone floor was demolished in the 1940's and a concrete walk- through dairy built on the same site. Originally cheese was made and transported to Sydney but later, when the Cobargo Co-operative was formed, cream was separated and sent by cart to Cobargo where butter was produced for the Sydney Market. Pigs became the main sideline on Illawambra and these were also shipped to Sydney from Bermagui. Concrete silos and feed sheds were built to enhance this sideline.
In the twenties the property passed to Magnus's son, Hon Sir John Peden K.C.M.G., K.C., Challis Professor of Law & Dean of the Faculty of Law, Sydney University. He was also MLC President of the Legislative Council NSW. There is a bust of him in Macquarie Street on a wooden plinth taken from Illawambra. Sir John loved Illawambra and was a very modest man and despite his honours and positions, when travelling in Australia and overseas and asked to sign visitors’ books, simply put J B Peden Farmer Cobargo NSW. The Pedens did not farm the property but had a series of share farmers managing Illawambra. With the advent of the motor vehicle Sir John added the holiday cottage, which he called Bunnerong. Previously the Pedens had travelled by steamer to Bermagui and thence to Cobargo and Illawambra. A local, Bill Henry was employed to build the cottage. Bill was already living at Illawambra in some quarters that he had built which went on to become the shearers’ quarters and now the bunkhouse. His job was to look after the Peden interests and care for the walnut trees and other plantings. More than sixty 80 year old walnut trees are still on the property today. Sir John had a close connection with the Department of Agriculture so apart from a range of exotic cypresses, experiments were done on pasture. Illawambra is the first farm on the south coast to plant Kikuyu and it is from here that other farms took cuttings.
With the death of Sir John Peden the farm passed to his daughters Margaret and Barbara who continued to run it as a share farm (dairy) bringing their children down to Bunnerong Cottage during school holidays. Interestingly, Margaret was captain of the first ladies cricket team to tour overseas and Barbara was also a member. There is a slab of concrete on the farm's old tennis court on which they used to practice.
Both Margaret and Barbara had distinguished sons. Margaret's son John Peden became the youngest Professor of Law in Australian history at the University of NSW, sadly he died suddenly at the age of 48. Barbara's eldest son is Colin Munro and her other son is Finlay (Jock) who manages his family’s medical practice at Narooma, north of Cobargo.
17In 1980 the farm was sold to Jim and Ruth Walker, friends of Colin, who operated a beef cattle enterprise up until 2001. They had printing interests and so a number of Croft Press books for collectors were printed at Illawambra. The Croft Press is represented in the rare book collections of the National and most State Libraries. The Press was one of the few letterpress printing operations functioning in Australia at the time. In 2002 the property sold to its present owners, Jenny and Paul Stock, who breed palomino warm blood horses.